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Anonymous Warns FIFA to Expel Iran from World Cup Over Deadly Drone Attacks on Ukraine

"Your choice expels the Iranian team immediately from World Cup 2022 or wait for us," hacktivists said in a message to the governing body.

The Anonymous hacktivist collective that has been conducting cyber ops against Russia and supporting entities since the invasion of Ukraine is now targeting FIFA, with a warning that the organization must ban Iran from next month’s World Cup for supplying deadly kamikaze drones that have been terrorizing Ukrainians.

“FIFA must ban #Iran after suspending #Russia. Khamenei provides Russia with kamikaze drones and supports Putin’s chaos,” one Anonymous account tweeted Tuesday. “Removing #Iran from the World Cup is crucial for Iranians, Ukrainians, and the rest of the world to expose the Mullahs’ Regime.”

The vow dovetails with the #OpIran initiative from the hackers in support of more than a month of protests in Iran stemming from the death of Masha Amini, who died in police custody Sept. 16, three days after her arrest and alleged beating for improperly wearing a hijab in Tehran.

“If FIFA does not exclude #Iran from the World Cup, it will be involved in the horrific slaughters committed by the Islamic Republic,” one Anonymous account tweeted. “Muting the voices of freedom fighters is equal to killing them.”

Pentagon Press Secretary Air Force Brig. Gen. Pat Ryder told reporters Thursday that the Defense Department has determined “that Iranians have been on the ground in Ukraine to assist Russia with the drone operations there.”

“And so, in terms of what that means, obviously, again, we continue to see Iran be complicit in terms of exporting terror, not only in the Middle East region, but now also to Ukraine,” Ryder added.

Pressed on Russia’s denial that the drones originated in Iran, Ryder reiterated that “we know that these drones are from Iran.”

“It’s obvious that they’re lying… it’s just indicative of the kinds of rhetoric that you hear coming from Iran, and from Russia, trying to say that these are not Iranian drones when they clearly are,” he said.

Ryder did not give an assessment on whether Russia has ordered more drones from Iran, “but I will say that we wouldn’t be surprised if that were the case, given their situation.”

“The Ukrainians have been pretty effective in terms of shooting a lot of those drones down — I’m not going to be able to provide you with numbers on that, other than to say that, in that regard, they have not quite probably met Russian goals in terms of their ability to strike targets,” he said. “That said, clearly, they have wreaked havoc and caused destruction and killed innocent civilians. And so, it’s a serious threat. And we’ll continue to work with the Ukrainians to provide them with the capabilities that they need.”

In a video released Tuesday, Anonymous addressed “FIFA leaders and you football bureaucracy.”

“We are Anonymous and we have a message for you. Iran set to be kicked out of this year’s FIFA World Cup and replaced by Ukraine over Russia’s alleged use of Iranian drones in its war on Kyiv,” the video stated.

“While Iranian leaders will have fun watching their national team play at the World Cup, Ukrainians will be killed by Iranian drones and Iranian missiles,” the video continued, quoting Sergiy Palkin, CEO of Ukrainian soccer club Shakhtar Donetsk, in a post he wrote on Facebook.

“Iranian people will continue to be persecuted – women, men, children who fight for their freedoms will continue to be locked up and killed by the Islamic Republic regime while leaders watch their team play World Cup 2022,” the video continues. “The blood of the innocent will continue to flow as the game continues for the bloodthirsty killers.”

“Every one of them (the drones) was produced, delivered by Iranian authorities, Iranian instructors, and the military directly trained and handled drone launches that destroyed homes, museums, universities, offices, sports grounds and playgrounds, and, most importantly, killed Ukrainians,” the video said, quoting Palkin.

“We Anonymous join the protests and call on FIFA and the entire international community to immediately ban the Iranian national team from playing at the World Cup for the country’s direct involvement in the terrorist attacks against Ukrainians. We ask to replace Iran with Ukraine. Replacing Iran with Ukraine would be historically and sportingly justified.”

The Anonymous message declared Operation World Cup, #OpWorldCup, “activated and ask everyone to join the pressure on the football bureaucracy to trigger the expulsion of Iran’s World Cup team in Qatar on November 20.”

“Your choice expels the Iranian team immediately from World Cup 2022 or wait for us,” the hacktivists stressed.

Anonymous accounts on Twitter reported this morning that they had knocked down the websites of the Government of Qatar communications office — promising “more targets incoming” — and Al Daffa Aluminium, Upvc & Steel Works in Doha. “Qatar you’ve been warned replace the Islamic Regime team with #Ukraine,” noted one Anonymous account. “You should have expected Us.”

Another Anonymous account listed corporate sponsors and partners of the World Cup, adding, “#OpWorldCup take this into consideration, because you see their silence proves that war crimes, crimes against humanity and violation of human rights are sponsored #OpFifa!”

FIFA announced Feb. 28 that Russia was suspended from all competition as a result of its invasion of Ukraine. “Football is fully united here and in full solidarity with all the people affected in Ukraine,” FIFA and the UEFA Executive Committee said in a statement at the time.

Iran is scheduled to play against England in the Group Stage of the World Cup on Nov. 21.

Bridget Johnson
Bridget Johnson is the Managing Editor for Homeland Security Today. A veteran journalist whose news articles and analyses have run in dozens of news outlets across the globe, Bridget first came to Washington to be online editor and a foreign policy writer at The Hill. Previously she was an editorial board member at the Rocky Mountain News and syndicated nation/world news columnist at the Los Angeles Daily News. Bridget is a terrorism analyst and security consultant with a specialty in online open-source extremist propaganda, incitement, recruitment, and training. She hosts and presents in Homeland Security Today law enforcement training webinars studying a range of counterterrorism topics including conspiracy theory extremism, complex coordinated attacks, critical infrastructure attacks, arson terrorism, drone and venue threats, antisemitism and white supremacists, anti-government extremism, and WMD threats. She is a Senior Risk Analyst for Gate 15 and a private investigator. Bridget is an NPR on-air contributor and has contributed to USA Today, The Wall Street Journal, New York Observer, National Review Online, Politico, New York Daily News, The Jerusalem Post, The Hill, Washington Times, RealClearWorld and more, and has myriad television and radio credits including Al-Jazeera, BBC and SiriusXM.

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